Tuesday, July 31, 2007

But the War has Just Begun

So, Erin Palette asked why the Autobots and Decepticons are at war with one another. It's a good question, and I'd like to say that there's a single coherent explanation for it. Sadly, given the sheer number of different Transformers continuities there are, it's hard to find a consistent answer to anything.

So I'll do my best to answer the question from the perspective of the original cartoon series. I thought about tackling it from the Dreamwave comic series as well, but I'm a lot less confident with my knowledge of that stuff right now, and I don't have the issues nearby for reference.

The origin of the Transformers in the original cartoon was somewhat fuzzy; we know that the Quintessons (five-faced robotic villain-types) were somehow involved, but the series wasn't exactly the greatest at keeping its continuity straight. There's some evidence to suggest that the Quintessons built the Cybertronians for specific purposes and sold them to other worlds for use as slaves, but a lot of that is speculation. It's specifically said, however, that the Autobots are built for science and research activities, while Decepticons are built for combat. The two factions come into conflict repeatedly, but eventually there comes the Golden Age of Cybertron, a long era of lasting peace.

The episode that gives us the best insight into this is "War Dawn," where the Aerialbots accidentally travel back in time, where they befriend a young Autobot by the name of Orion Pax. Orion's a good kid with a lot of ambition, and he really admires an up-and-coming revolutionary by the name of Megatron. Megatron's the leader of a new sort of Transformer, equipped with personal anti-gravity devices and outfitted with high-powered weaponry. Megatron is amassing followers, and Orion is keen on joining until the rebel betrays him. Thanks to quick action by Alpha Trion, one of the oldest Cybertronians, Orion Pax is rebuilt--into Optimus Prime. Prime goes on to amass his own army, and the war between the scientists and the soldiers begins once more (albeit seemingly more organized this time around).

The Wisdom/War dichotomy is central to the Autobot/Decepticon conflict. The Autobots seek progress and betterment through the quest for knowledge; the Decepticons seek progress through increasing power and subjugation of others. It's telling that one of Megatron's earliest acts in building his army was to create a device that would permanently reprogram Cybertronians to be loyal to him. Similarly telling is the fact that the Autobots' greatest weapon is an artifact containing the combined power and wisdom of every one of the Autobots' many leaders.

So the Decepticons want power, and will do anything to get it. On Earth, that means elaborate plans to dominate the planet and turn their resources into Energon Cubes. The Autobots seek knowledge and prize freedom, and see it as their responsibility to protect others from the menace of the Decepticons.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thoughts from the Pensieve

And it's done. I'm glad to say that I was able to predict a couple of the twists and turns, but certainly not all of them. I'm not ashamed to say that I teared up at least two or three times over the course of the book. I don't think it's spoiling anything to say that I wish we'd seen more of Ginny, who has consistently been one of my favorite characters. But it was a good book, perhaps a fantastic book, to end a damn good series. And that's all I'll say about this last book, at least until everyone's read it.

For years I've seen the Harry Potter books compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia series. Over the course of reading this, I've realized how well Rowling has earned that spot, and how she's managed, in all honesty, to improve upon their faults.

Lord of the Rings, for all its wonder and grandeur, can be downright boring. Parts of it are just monumentally dull. Between that and all the fictional languages, all the characters with similar names, all the people who show up only briefly then vanish or who only really become important toward the end, the books can often feel meandering and sluggish. I understand that this was part of the point; Tolkien wanted to evoke the realities of war and struggle, of different co-existing races with different languages. In real life, people don't always serve a greater purpose, journeys are long and difficult, and battles are just short breaks in a larger, more uniform tension. I understand that these are all part of the point that Tolkien's trying to make. However, making a point doesn't always make for good reading. The Lord of the Rings is a classic and a wonderful trilogy; it deserves its accolades. But it has its flaws, and in some places they are oppressive.

The Chronicles of Narnia doesn't usually have the same problem. Shorter books and less attention to realism save it from the pitfalls of the Lord of the Rings, but it has its own issues. For one, it's preachy. I can't imagine why, being entirely composed of often thinly-veiled Biblical allegory. It's hard to pick out really clear-cut morals in Lord of the Rings; you might say that loyalty is the greatest virtue, or that power corrupts, or that people often defy your expectations of them, but there are counter-examples to all those messages. In Narnia, I think you'd be hard-pressed to disagree that it is better to be childlike than mature adults, or that the greedy are easily corrupted and manipulated, and so on. Narnia is far, far more black-and-white than Middle-Earth. Besides that, I recognize that the books are set (more or less) in 1940s Britain, with proper British children, but even taking that into account, the dialogue has never quite rung true to me. It never feels like these are real children talking to each other. Part of this, I'm sure, is due to the overall point of the books; the characters are simply less important than the plot and the allegory.

It is on these flaws, I think, that the Harry Potter series shines. Though some of the books aren't as good as the others (I know I'm not the only one who was less than thrilled with book 5), they're all pretty exciting. The first four books never really let up in their mad dash through years of schooling, the fifth book tries a more steady suspense, and I honestly don't remember much about the sixth book other than it being better than the fifth. One of these days, I'll probably take a week or two and plow through the whole series. In any case, boredom is rarely an issue with the Harry Potter books; they don't feel the need to inform you on every day's events over the course of the year (as it often seems that Lord of the Rings does), but lets you peek in when things are interesting.
And while there are characters who flit in and out of Harry's life, it's amazing how many of them end up being important, far more, I think, than one would expect. There aren't many (if any) Tom Bombadils in Harry Potter. Rowling has a good sense of Chekhov's Gun.
Harry Potter isn't above moralizing, to be certain. Besides general things like the importance of love and friendship and the virtues of courage and selflessness, we see allegories to real-life issues, past and present: the House-Elf civil rights movement, Umbridge's McCarthyist witch-hunts, Rita Skeeter's dishonest sensationalist journalism, the Daily Prophet and government-controlled media, Pureblood racism, and of course, the fascist supremacist Death Eaters. But where Harry Potter uses allegory to make moral and political points, Narnia presents morals that are themselves allegorical, symbolic of specific religious morals. And the Potterverse is significantly more gray-toned than Lewis's. Even characters we're meant to revere, like Dumbledore, have significant flaws, while the ones we're meant to despise, like Snape and Draco, have some redeeming characteristics. Even Voldemort isn't just plain evil, he's tragic and pitiable.
And those flaws? Not just classical tragic flaws like hubris or pride or greed or indecisiveness, but more nuanced, realistic flaws. Harry is a terrible study, a bit of a troublemaker, and a little clueless as to who deserves his trust, and who doesn't. Hermione's weaknesses are in places where Harry and Ron excel, like broomstick riding and Patronus-summoning, not to mention that she takes overachieving to undreamt-of levels, and is often skeptical to a fault (despite living in a world of magic and dragons and such). Every character has not just faults, but faults that ring true. Harry and the other students feel like real children, talk like real children, have the sort of character flaws that real people have. In fact, I daresay that the only real caricatures in the series are the occasional incidental character, and the Dursleys--but even they get some depth as the series wears on.

I think part of it has to do with the contexts in which these series were written: Lord of the Rings branched out of Tolkien's experiences in World War I, the Chronicles of Narnia are set in Britain during the bombings of World War II. Harry Potter doesn't have any real war to call its foundation, and the only war that encroaches into the story is the fictional battle between wizarding factions. Being a story of peacetime, I think, gives it a very different atmosphere than the other canonical fantasy series.

I'm sure there are those in the next few years especially who will scoff at the Harry Potter series, who will call it a flash-in-the-pan fad with no lasting impact or staying power. They'll consider it high literary treason to lump Rowling in with luminaries like Lewis and Tolkien. Frankly, I can only see one reason why. To quote Alexander Pope:

So much they scorn the Crowd, that if the Throng
By Chance go right, they purposely go wrong;
Yes, the Harry Potter books have been popular--immensely popular--but that's less a fault than a testament to the qualities they have. Rowling built a rich tapestry of a world that drew readers in from the very start; she crafted realistic, riveting characters and shepherded them through seven years of school and life; and ultimately she tied everything together neatly. The Harry Potter books are easily more entertaining than the Lord of the Rings and more nuanced than the Chronicles of Narnia. The series has its own faults and flaws (I think we might all agree that the length of these last 3-4 books is a bit excessive), but no moreso than the others. Eventually, I hope and believe, Harry Potter will join the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings, not just in the minds of readers and fans, but in the fantasy-series literary canon. It has earned that spot several times over.

I guess, put short, what I'm trying to say is "Long live Harry Potter!"

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Screening cats

As if to render the word "Classics" meaningless, AMC (American Movie Classics) is showing Halle Berry's magnum opus, "Catwoman," right now. Yesterday, USA aired Waterworld, and TNT has been on a Steven Seagal kick as of late. What makes these stations think that people will be more willing to sit through edited, commercial-interrupted dreck than to rent it?

Sigh...299 pages left.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Muffiato!

Sorry I haven't been more on the ball with posting lately. Things just keep coming up. One of those things just came up in my mailbox yesterday, and so I'm going to cut myself off from the rest of the world as much as possible until I'm done with it. Only 614 pages left.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Top 5 Worst Transformers Ideas Ever

Transformers really is such an elegantly simple concept. Take one thing that kids like--toy cars--combine it with another thing kids like--action figures--and add a dash of simple morality play and simmer over sci-fi space opera, and you've got a recipe for success. Inspired additions like "dinosaurs" and "spaceships" and "combiners" prove that yes, you can improve on perfection. It's hard to screw these ideas up.

And yet, screw them up they have, and frequently. Now, overall, Transformers has been pretty good and increasing in quality from the '80s to the present day. But every once in awhile, a real stinker gets through. These are those stinkers:

5. The Throttlebots: You'd think "motorized Transformers" would be a no-brainer, right? The Generation One line experimented with motorized and mechanized Transformers a few times over the course of the line, to varying degrees of success. The Jumpstarters and Battlechargers had pull-back-and-go motors, and automatically transformed into robot mode as they rolled along (though the Jumpstarters had much more articulation). The Triggerbots and Triggercons had mechanically-rotating parts which would reveal 'hidden' guns in either mode. And then there were the Throttlebots. Like the Jumpstarters and the Battlechargers, the Throttlebots were equipped with pull-back-and-go motors. Like the Battlechargers, they didn't have much articulation (neither group possessed poseable arms or hands). The Throttlebots, however, didn't even have the auto-transformation feature or the snap-on guns possessed by those progenitors. They turned from little brick-like cars into little brick-like robots, whose lack of anything resembling arms (their doors opened outward) and wheeled leg-sleds (the pull-back-and-go motor worked in both modes) caused them to look like the Thalidomide generation of Cybertronians. The fact that poor Bumblebee got saddled with one of these mutant bodies for years is one of the great tragedies of Transformers.

4. The Cybernet Space-Cube: It's 1993. Transformers is enjoying a moderately successful resurgence in popularity, thanks to the Generation 2 line of toys, which mixes updated versions of the '80s figures with all-new toys. You realize that this is the perfect time for a new Transformers cartoon. Unfortunately, you have neither the time nor the resources to put one together. So, what do you do? Well, computers are all the rage, and it seems like they'd be a perfect fit for a show about hi-tech robots from outer space. And, you know, the last Transformers cartoon isn't all that old; in fact, it's perfectly good. So you combine the two, thinking they're two great tastes that taste great together. And you do this with a new, computer-animated opening sequence and the Cybernet Space-Cube, a silver Macguffin that flew through space and showed you old episodes of Transformers on shifting screens within itself. The result: any time there was some sort of interstitial or scene change or camera change, the Space-Cube would show up, shifting screens around mechanically accompanied by machine-like noises that often drowned out the sound of the show. It served no purpose other than to put a gussied-up, intrusive '90s frame around an '80s cartoon. Annoying, useless, and utterly unnecessary. And here it is, in all its opposite of glory:



3. Beast Wars Mutants: Beast Wars started with a good idea: robots that turn into dinosaurs and other animals instead of cars and airplanes. It was kind of a gamble, sure, mainly because it was a departure from the original concept of Transformers and because the animal alt-modes tended not to look very realistic. But after a slightly rocky start and bolstered by a fantastic cartoon series, Beast Wars found its stride. The original Transmetal sub-line remains one of the most consistently awesome incarnations of Transformers ever. But Beast Wars, especially toward the end of the series, had its own share of missteps. The Transmetal II/2 line would have made this list with its easily-chipped metallic paint jobs, its ugly figures that didn't look like anything in either mode, and its decision to change from Roman to Arabic numerals because they didn't think kids would understand what "II" meant. They had no such qualms with the word "Transmetal," however. But, without the TM2 line, we wouldn't have gotten the awesomeness of dragon Megatron, and that'd be a real shame. But there was one subset that had almost no such redeeming qualities: the Mutants. There were only a few of these figures made, and for good reason: they transformed not from animal to robot, but from one animal to a different animal. During the transition, you could see little robot parts inside, to signify that they were trapped between the two animal modes, but they really just serve to remind you that all you really want is to turn it into a dude with a gun. The backstory is actually kind of interesting for these guys, but being totally unable to turn them into something that can hold its own against the average Predacon or Maximal really makes them feel useless. You can take cars out of the Transformers equation, but not robots.

2. Action Masters: Incidentally, something else you can't take out of the Transformers equation is transforming. Yet, someone at Hasbro toward the very end of the original toyline decided that doing just that would be some sort of fantastic idea. Action Masters gave us Transformers that didn't change into anything, who came with weapon or accessory partners that did sort of transform. Strangely "accessory that looks sort of like a robot turns into accessory that looks sort of like a gun" wasn't quite enough transforming for people who bought Transformers because they transform. There's really only two reasons that this isn't number one on the list. First, the figures introduced a feature that would become standard for Transformers from that point onward: articulation. Say what you will about the Action Masters, but at least they had a wide range of motion. The second reason is quite simply because Action Masters doesn't hold a candle to our number one contender.

1. Beast Machines: In every facet of Beast Machines, there's something to hate. The toys were hideously ugly, and often looked nothing like their animated counterparts (something that the series had worked to correct for the last couple of seasons of Beast Wars on both sides of production). The toy sizes were determined (apparently) not by any logic, nor by importance (until this point, Optimus and Megatron tended to be the largest beast characters), but by which characters Hasbro wanted to be popular. Hence, we have a deluxe-sized Optimus Primal, a mega-sized Cheetor, and ultra-sized Nightscream. The toys continued a trend begun by Transmetal II/2, where the character doesn't look like much of anything in either mode (with the exception of some Vehicons, which were moderately okay). The series was almost completely devoid of guns, especially on the good guys' side, apparently due to Story Editor Bob Skir's own personal crusades. And then there's the show, oh dear Primus, the show. While the characters ostensibly continued from Beast Wars to Beast Machines, you'd never know it from their personalities. Nothing stayed constant except names and some alt-modes. Part of this is because Bob Skir and Marty Isenberg, the Story Editing team, are utter hacks. You may remember them from the "Gargoyles" episode about virtual reality, which was just like their "Batman: The Animated Series" episode about virtual reality (with the Riddler instead of Lexington). You probably remember their two-part "Batman" episode that ripped off "2001" and "Blade Runner" right down to the voice actors. In fact, the only good thing I've ever seen come out of that writing team is "His Silicon Soul," which still built out of their earlier plagiarism.

But I digress. Skir and Isenberg introduced into Transformers the ridiculous idea that technology is inherently evil. That might have made for a good series (perhaps a counterpoint to "Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors"), except that it was in a franchise based on robots. Robots, as you may or may not know, are made of technology. So our primary conflict is not between good and evil, as in G1, nor between different factions in a war, as in Beast Wars. Instead, it's between two groups of fanatics who are both wrong: Megatron, who wants to destroy all the sparks so Cybertron is a paradise of machinery with no free will; and Optimus, who wants to turn Cybertron into an organic, plant-filled animal haven, ridding the world of evil technology.

Add into this horrendously pedantic plotline a bunch of muddled references to Transformers series past, where the Key to Vector Sigma behaves like the Hate Plague and the Hate Plague in turn behaves like something completely different, and your result is a series that has almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever. And, as I only recently learned, a lot of the bad can be traced back to one man, who ought to be familiar to the patrons of this blog. This executive at Mainframe, the computer animation production house behind the Beast Machines cartoon, told Marv Wolfman (who co-wrote the series bible) that the show had no ties to earlier series and to do with G1 continuity whatever he wanted. This executive told Skir and Isenberg to completely disregard any previous incarnations of the characters and series, because Beast Wars was too "continuity-heavy." This executive cancelled ReBoot. And the name of this Mainframe executive?

Dan DiDio


Yes, the Dan DiDio. Now, I've met Dan briefly, shook his hand, listened to him talk about the state of the DCU. I've generally liked what he's done for DC, with the exception of his tendency toward turning decent characters into cannon fodder. I've never cared for his writing (his "Superboy" run essentially killed the title), but I don't mind his editing, not nearly as much as some people do. But to learn that he's the voice behind the worst thing ever as far as Transformers is concerned, to have my irony meter explode at hearing him express aversion to continuity...well, my opinion of Dan DiDio dropped quite a bit.

My opinion of Beast Machines, however, can't possibly get any lower. No other idea in the history of Transformers has ever taken the "robots that turn into things" idea and screwed it up in more spectacularly awful ways than Beast Machines. There's a real sort of prescience to giving the series the initials "B.M."

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Transformers will return after these messages

Sorry, it's been a busier couple of days than I'd anticipated. I'll have a post or two up tomorrow, and my movie review on Wednesday or Thursday.

In the meantime, YouTube!



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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Top 5 GoBots!

Today, I'll address those much-maligned Tonka 'transformers,' the glorious GoBots. They may have been condemned to obscurity by the popularity of their Cybertronian rivals,

Goofy with a capital GOOFY.5. Scooter: The goofy kid sidekick, more or less the Bumblebee of GoBots. Not surprisingly, Scooter transformed into a scooter. Someone in my town has a little red motorscooter that always reminds me of the GoBots' most endearing character.

Gosh, he sure looks threatening.4. Cy-Kill: the sinister leader of the...oh, forget this. You know, I was all ready to go over the Go-Bots, to give them some recognition. I mean, as a kid, I wasn't real discerning when I bought toys or watched cartoons, and I know I watched GoBots. I had some of the figures, and I must have really liked the Rock Lords spinoff, since I ended up with quite a few toys from that line. But I can't even name five GoBots. Not that I'd want to--Leader-1? Cy-Kill? Scooter? No wonder the line failed. Who could take them seriously? Screw GoBots.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vox Roboti

You know, you'd think that a civilization of super-advanced robotic life forms, with the highly advanced technology necessary to travel across vast interstellar differences and then alter their bodies so they can disguise themselves as native technology or life forms, would be able to do basic things like voicebox repair. A little rewiring, a little soldering, and any physical or psychological problem should be easily remedied. Unfortunately for some Cybertronians, this simply isn't the case; they're cursed with physiological or psychological speech impediments that range from being annoying to rendering them almost totally incomprehensible. Today, I'm saluting those brave sparks who soldier on in the face of adversity and utter confusion.

No, 'door-hinge' doesn't count. 'Whore-binge,' on the other hand...10. Wheelie: Wheelie's speech is quite distractive;
Though not much of him is attractive.
He's just a child, this Autobot,
Armed with some sort of slingshot.
Compared to his toy, though, he's blessed
Because his head's not in his chest.
But making him rhyme? Why that, methinks,
Makes him Transformers' Jar-Jar Binks.
Still, we should pity, not loathe, this rhyming whiz;
I mean, he can't even say what color he is!

9. Seaspray: Poblbbor Sggleaspray, clbblursed wgith the sgglame impebbldiment as sggo maglgny oggther undllgerwabblter chablbractggers: pglggerpetulglal garglblbling. Sggleaspray's dglglistincllive agglccent aglgnd tigggmbre is shglgared by Hggle-Mallgln vigbgllain Mggler-Maglggn, mggbainly bllgecaggluse bogggth weglre vgllgoiced by Agbblan Obllbppenhlleimer, whlglo yggou maglgy knolllw as Sgbgkeletogglr. Glglod, my spelggglchelglk hblbates this.

8. Bumblebee: And now, it's the top eight at eight! *kxxskt* Number one in the box office this week, the movie Transformers...*kxskxt* A first for the young player--*kxxst*--the next generation Chevy Camaro, priced at--*kxxst*--have trouble speaking? Shortness of--*kxxst*. All we hear is radio ga-ga. *kxsxxt*


7. Shrapnel: Shrapnel has a pretty unique quirk quirk. See, he always repeats the last word, or last few syllables, in his sentences tences. He's the leader of the Insecticons, which makes him a fairly forgettable character character. I'd actually forgotten about his speech pattern when I saw the first Transformers Movie again several years ago ago. He says a line to another Insecticon (Kickback, I think), "a little heavy on the electrons electrons." For quite some time afterward, I wondered why an Insecticon would be named Electron, until I was corrected ected. These days, I like the Insecticons a lot more, even if their toys didn't look very insect-like like.

6. Blurr: Blurr'sparticularspeechimpediment isprettymemorable.Hisspeedy talkingwasprovidedbyJohn Moschita,ZachMorris'shistory teacherandthemanbehindthe MicroMachinescommercials.Blurr alsoseemstohaveabitofaproblemwith attentiondeficitdisorder,or somethingalongthoselines, sincehehasatendencytoramble.Atleastitdoesn'ttakehimanyextratimewhenhe goesoffontangentslikethat.He'sunsurprisinglyveryexcitable andtendstopanicatthedropofahat. Someoneshouldprobablyputhimon theTransformerequivalentofValium.

5. Waspinator: It'zzz almozzzt unfair to call Wazzzpinator'zzz buzzing voizzze a zpeech impediment, bzzz. But if a lizzzp qualifiezzz, then buzzing every time you hit the letter "szzz" hazzz got to be one to, zzz. Dezzzpite, or perhapzzz becauzzze of hizzz idiozzzyncratic way of talking, Wazzzpinator izzz eazzzily one of the high pointzzz of the otherwizzze fantazzztic Beazzzt Warzzz zeriezzz.

4. Warpath You already BLAM! met Warpath in this BOOM! series. The diminutive tank KAPOW! appears to have some sort of cyber-Tourette's, where CRASH! he peppers his speech with '60s-Batman-esque sound effects. POW! ZAP! BANG! He also has a kind of southern accent KABOOM! which is strange, considering he's from another planet. Then again, the same could be said for most PREEEOW! sci-fi.

3. Wreck-Gar: Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong? Wreck-Gar and the Junkions learned English from humans' television broadcasts. As a consequence, they tend to sprinkle classic TV catchphrases in their speech, like "Lucy, I'm home!" or "one of these days, Alice" or "you are the Weakest Link, goodbye." Well, not that last one, at least, not in the '80s. Chances are they've probably worked their way up to "did I do thaaaaat?" and "not the mama!" by now, depending on how far out they are from Earth television signals. Who knows, maybe they've progressed as far as "simmahdahnah" or "who let the dogs out?" One thing's for sure, though: once there's an entire relatively advanced alien planet saying "Git-R-Done," we can reasonably expect a merciful and swift end to the universe.

2. Grimlock: Me Grimlock no have problem talking! Me Grimlock kick butt! Grimlock is strongest Autobot, Grimlock not need fancy words like weak Optimus Prime. Me Grimlock say freedom is right...and Decepticons is wrong! Talking am waste of time, me Grimlock want action! Want to bust Decepticon heads! Me Grimlock bust heads more gooder than anyone!

1. Megatron: I don't know if constant monologuing could be considered a speech impediment, but no one can drag out a three-letter word for four syllables without something being wrong. Yessss.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Me and Bumble McBee

Incoming message from Autobot City!Or, "Freedom's just another word for the right of all sentient beings."

Every cartoon, especially the '80s cartoons, seems to have that one goofy comic relief character, usually short and pudgy and clumsy or accident prone, who tended to act as the heart and sense of humor of the main cast. He-Man had Orko, She-Ra had Madame Razz, Thundercats had Snarf, Bravestarr had Deputy Fuzz, and Transformers had Bumblebee. If there were two characters in a series with whom I identified, two characters I'd roleplay in the backyard, it was the heroic leader and the comic relief sidekick. So naturally, when I wasn't blasting invisible bad guys with Optimus Prime's laser rifle, I was saving Spike and Sparkplug as Bumblebee.

So, I've had something of a 20-year love affair with a yellow Volkswagen bug. Aside from perhaps Optimus Prime, there's no Transformer (and few fictional characters besides) that I've felt quite so protective of. I was pissed when they turned him into Goldbug, and not just because the Goldbug figure freaking sucked. I mean, he didn't even have arms. I couldn't have been more thrilled when they came out with the Pretender Bumblebee; not only was it my first non-Goldbug Bumblebee figure (I missed out on the original), but it was more or less show-accurate to boot!

Some time after that, Generation 2 rolled along, and with it, a gold-chrome-styled redeco of the original Bumblebee figure. This remains one of my favorite Transformers, despite being pretty lax in terms of detail and articulation. I even managed to get the "GoBots" G2 Bumblebee figure, who turned into a gold sports car.

Full of win!And since then...silence. While this might be sad, it would make it fairly easy to be a Bumblebee completist. Right up until the Transformers Classics line gave us the best Bumblebee ever. "Tom," you're saying, "how can you call him the best Bumblebee ever? He doesn't even turn into a VW Bug!" And you're right, he doesn't. That's sad; sadder still is that the Alternators Bumblebee got nixed before it ever came to light. Volkswagen has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that they don't want their distinctive cars associated with war and violence any longer. Given that their product was initially popularized by the Nazis, I can't say I find much fault with their decision. So, accepting the reality of the situation, Classics Bumblebee is the bee's knees. He even has a rubsign! My only beef is that he doesn't have a gun of his own; thankfully, he looks great with Optimus Prime's honkin' smokestack pistol.

And then there's movie Bumblebee. A Camaro? Really? Surely that's more of a disappointment than a futuristic mini cooper, right? I guess you'll just have to wait 'til my Movie review to find out.

Nah, come on. It'd take more than a Camaro to end my love for the mighty minispy. I plan on picking up both of the Movie Bumblebee figures (as soon as the second one comes out). I just hope the '09 Camaro version has Bumblebee's insectoid battle-visor for a head, to change things up. He's a departure to be sure, but no moreso than the sportscar version of Bumblebee we got in Generation 2. I was definitely skeptical to begin with, but given the limitations imposed by VW and the character's portrayal in the film, Camarobee won me over. Not that he really had to try all that hard.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Transfandom

I've always been a Transformers fan. To be honest, I'm not sure how I've gone so long on this blog without mentioning them more often. I watched the cartoon as a kid, had several of the toys (mostly Autobots and Micromasters; I get the feeling that TFs were fairly expensive back in the day), and I've followed the series progression ever since. I don't know, maybe I just thought that despite spending all my time talking about comic books and science and such, people might think me just a little too geeky if I started talking about '80s cartoons on top of it.

Or, it might be that I've just fallen out of the loop a little with regards to Transformers and my first '80s-cartoon love, He-Man. The end of the He-Man toyline and the cancellation of the excellent Dreamwave Transformers series put me into something like '80s-cartoon hibernation.

But man, before that? I spent Junior High doodling Autobot and Decepticon insignias in my notebooks and printing out reams of information on the Japanese Transformers series from the Internet. I watched the Movie every day for a month. I wrote fanfic--and lots of it. It took a little while for me to get into Beast Wars, but once I did, I dove in all the way. My first couple of years of High School saw me writing long and involved treatises on the history of Cybertron, the physics of Subspace (the apocryphal place where Transformers shunt their excess mass, weapons, and trailers, or draw more mass when they transform), and the nature of Sparks (Transformer souls). I ended up becoming something of a Transformers connoisseur. I turned my nose up at the Marvel comics for their art and their departures from the cartoon; I worshiped Beast Wars but hated Beast Machines. Robots in Disguise drew me in with the toys, and I warmed up to the cartoon pretty quickly once I decided not to take it seriously. I've grown to demand fairly high standards from my favorite giant transforming robot series, standards that aren't often met.

So, naturally, I've got a lot to talk about: ranting and raving. This week represents two years of repressed Transformers blogging being released like the wisdom and power of the ancients when Optimus Prime opened the Matrix of Leadership to eradicate the Hate Plague.

It begins.

So, to get to the point of this post, I'm declaring an open thread: share your Transformers-related stories and memories. Ask questions, and I'll take them to Vector Sigma for the answers. Comment on your favorite series, favorite moments, and whatnot.

And I swear, the first person to say that the Generation 2 cartoon was their favorite incarnation of Transformers gets slapped with a dead Sharkticon.

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Transformers Tuesday!

Tragically, the other Autobots never understood Warpath's cosmic battle with Tourette's Syndrome.BLAM! Howdy folks, I'm Warpath, and I'm here to BAZOW! introduce you to Transformers Week here at The Fortress of POW! Soliloquy! For the next seven days, we'll fire BANG! round after round of steel-jacketed cybernetic commentary your way! ZAP! KABLAM! Tom'll take you through the history of WHOO! Optimus Prime, target some lesser-known BOOM! Transformers, and run down some of the RAM! best and worst ideas in Cybertronian history! All this and a BOOM! review of the new movie! So strap in and brace yourselves for Transformers Week! KRAKADOOM!

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